Virginia fans packed Klöckner Stadium to watch the Cavaliers (3-2-0, 1-0-0 ACC) take on the Hokies (0-4-1, 0-1-0 ACC) in the Commonwealth Clash Friday night for both teams’ ACC opener. After falling behind in the first half, a late second-half surge propelled Virginia to a 4-2 victory.
The players brought the energy as both teams entered the game looking for a win. Virginia was coming off of an embarrassing 6-1 defeat against No. 9 Maryland, while Virginia Tech was winless through its first five games of the season.
Virginia started the game in a similar formation as its first four games of the season, with five defenders, two midfielders and three forwards, with the outside defenders playing more of an offensive role down the wings.
The Cavaliers started the game off hot, possessing the ball and putting the Hokies under pressure early with two shots in the first three minutes.
Junior midfielder Daniel Mangarov dispossessed a Hokie in the attacking half and drove towards the net. He dumped it off to junior forward Leo Afonso, who hit a shot across the goal, just missing the bottom right corner.
For the next 10 minutes, both teams changed possession back and forth, with not much action until freshman defender Reese Miller made two Hokie defenders miss with great fakes and drawing a yellow card on Virginia Tech’s sophomore midfielder Carter Hensley.
Miller fed the ball down the left wing to Afonso, who played it to junior midfielder Axel Ahlander at the top of the box. Ahlander’s pass back to Afonso was intercepted and the chance was gone. Miller continues to impress as a freshman after getting his first start against Rider.
However, in the 21st minute, Miller received a yellow card on Virginia’s left sideline for a reckless challenge on Hokie freshman defender Grant Howard.
On the ensuing free kick, freshman midfielder Misei Yoshizawa hit a curling inswinging ball into the box, which was headed into the left side netting by junior forward Conor Pugh. The goal came out of nowhere as Virginia had been controlling the ball in the Virginia Tech half for much of the first 20 minutes.
After the Virginia Tech goal, the Hokies had all the momentum. Klöckner was relatively quiet as the Cavaliers seemed a step behind the Hokies for every contested ball or pass.
Every bounce felt like it was going Virginia Tech’s way. However, the crowd got back into the game with 10 minutes remaining in the half as Virginia was awarded a free kick in the Virginia Tech half near the top of the box after Howard took down Mangarov.
Sophomore defender Paul Wiese took the free kick, hitting it straight into the wall and receiving a yellow card for a challenge stopping a possible Virginia Tech counterattack.
The story of the first half ultimately became Virginia failing to keep the ball. Missed pass after missed pass began to pile up for the Cavaliers as they only had a couple of dangerous attacking chances.
Virginia continued to keep Virginia Tech under a lot of pressure to start the second half, having good control of the ball often in the Virginia Tech half, but not finding success.
Sophomore forward Kome Ubogu and freshman forward David Okorie subbed on in the 62nd minute to try and spark the Cavalier offense. Just seven minutes later, another great chance arose when Afonso was played through and whipped a low cross to Ubogu.
Right after, in a similar fashion, Afonso drove down the right side, hit a fast cross to the goal and senior defender Andreas Ueland redirected into the back of the net to tie the game 1-1 in the 70th minute. In response to the equalizer, the crowd erupted and immediately became a factor once again.
The go-ahead goal came in the 75th minute, this time down the left side. Sophomore midfielder Asparuh Slavov hit a lofted cross in and Ubogu dove full extension to brilliantly head the ball into the bottom right corner past sophomore goalkeeper Ben Martino.
The offensive explosion didn’t stop for Virginia, as junior forward Philip Horton made a run into the box one-on-one with Virginia Tech’s junior defender Jack Dearie. Horton wrestled for position around Dearie, and Dearie took him down in the box. Dearie was shown a red card and Horton was awarded a penalty kick.
Horton ran up, hesitated, and calmly hit the ball into the back of the net, doubling the Cavaliers’ lead and making the score 3-1.
Just a couple minutes later, Wiese made a darting run into the box. He sharply cut it back to find a wide open Afonso, who struck the ball straight into the bottom left corner. Afonso ripped his jersey off as Klöckner stadium exploded after the goal.
Virginia Tech added a goal in the 88th minute by Yoshizawa as he dribbled in, relatively unguarded, and shot into the bottom right corner from around the 18-yard line.
The difference maker for Virginia in the second half was energy. The offense showed a much stronger killer instinct in the attacking third of the field, and the Charlottesville fans were rocking. Coach George Gelnovatch spoke about the feeling in the locker room at halftime and the adversity the team felt they needed to overcome.
“Having gone through [the Maryland loss], I think we were better prepared for it,” Gelnovatch said. “We just felt like all we needed was a goal and if we scored a goal, we were going to win this game.”
Overall, the Cavaliers outshot the Hokies 19-8, including six shots on goal to the Hokies’ four. Virginia also played much more physically than Virginia Tech, registering 17 fouls to the Hokies’ nine.
With the win, Virginia earned the first point for either school in the Commonwealth Clash of the season, taking a 1-0 advantage over Virginia Tech. All time, Virginia is 43-5-6 in men’s soccer against the Hokies, including 22-2-3 at home.
Up next for the Cavaliers is another home matchup against La Salle on Tuesday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game will be streamed live on ACCNX.